Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Kosovo negotiations possible”

BELGRADE -- President of the Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Policy Council, Sonja Liht, said that new negotiations on the modality of Kosovo’s status” are possible.

Sonja Liht (Danas)
Sonja Liht (Danas)

She told daily Danas that this is seen not only in the statements coming from Belgrade, but also international officials, as well as some analysts in Kosovo.

Asked to comment on the increasing signals from the West that direct talks between Belgrade and Priština are necessary, Liht said “Belgrade officials expect direct negotiations with Priština officials, directly after the consultative opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is given.”

“Even if these talks are not a direct condition for increasing the speed of European integration, they are necessary for decreasing tensions, solving many problems related to the normal lives of Serbs and all other Kosovo residents, but would also send a clear message that we are ready to solve difficult problems in the Balkans through dialogue,” Liht said.

She said that the talks must be held within the framework of searching for a status solution of compromise, adding that no one can be an absolute winner or loser in this solution.

“This would leave a strong impression on our European partners, just as the first meetings between Presidents Tadić and Josipović did,” Liht said.

“In this way, one big mistake could be avoided from turning into a precedent that will constantly lead to conflicts around the world,” she said.

She said that contact between Belgrade and Priština is unavoidable for solving technical questions and attending regional forums.

“The EU does not have a united stance on the question. That does not mean that there are any EU countries against strengthening the European perspective of Kosovo. All 27 member-states supported the EULEX mission in Kosovo from the start, and all EU member-states are interested in solving the practical problems between Belgrade and Priština,” she said.

Liht commented the announcements that Serbian citizens would need a passport to enter Kosovo as something that is not in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adding that the resolution obligates all UN members as long as it is in power.

She said that respecting laws is the only foundation for further democratic development in Kosovo.

“I am convinced that a way must be found to avoid violence,” Liht said, adding that EULEX and the domestic government are now most responsible for keeping the peace.

Eurozone agrees on support mechanism for Greece

The leaders of the Eurozone countries decided in the early hours of Saturday to activate a support mechanism for Greece, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced at the end of a special summit in Brussels.

A three year joint programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes available 110 billion euro to help Greece meet its financing needs, with euro area member-states ready to contribute for their part 80 billion euro.

Addressing reporters, Papandreou said that with the decision the eurozone countries "have shown that they stand with determination by our side," adding that the disbursement of the lown will begin in the coming days.

These funds, he added, will "help us to implement without everyday's uncertainty in the international markets, the stabilisation and growth programme for our economy."

"But the summit has shown something more, that the need to shield the eurozone relates not only to Greece's problems, but that the issue is a broader one and concerns the eurozone as a whole," Papandreou also said.

"These decisions show that we are going to work all together not to let international speculation acting without control in the markets, to take Europe out of the crisis and contribute substantially to the world economy's recovery," the Greek premier said.

US President briefed regularly on situation in Greece

Washington (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis) -- US President Barack Obama "continues to be briefed regularly on the situation in Greece during his daily briefings," according to a White House announcement, adding that the President was briefed on the situation in Europe and on the markets on Thursday afternoon by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers.

"Secretary Geithner and his staff are also in frequent communication with our European counterparts. The Treasury Department is monitoring this very closely," the release added.

"Last Sunday, the President spoke with Prime Minister Papandreou. He welcomed the ambitious reform program announced by the Greek authorities, as well as the significant support that was agreed to by the IMF and Eurozone members. The two leaders discussed the importance of implementation going forward," the release said, adding that "Secretary Geithner and President Obama have been in contact with European leaders on the situation in Greece throughout the past several weeks."

The White House statement further noted: "When Prime Minister Papandreou was in Washington in March, the President met with him on a host of issues, including the economy. The Prime Minister outlined the steps the Greek government was taking to address their fiscal challenges. They discussed continued efforts by Europe and the United States together to move forward on financial reform efforts globally."

"Greece is enacting major economic reforms with the support of the Euro-area and the IMF. This plan is designed to deliver results over the next several years. We strongly support this effort to help restore stability to Greece and confidence to the global financial system, and we will continue to communicate this to European officials," the White House concluded.

Arrest in Kosovo points to secret camps

International police in Kosovo have arrested a former guerrilla commander suspected of war crimes in a widening investigation that was spurred by our exposé of secret detention camps run by the Kosovo Liberation Army during and after the 1999 war.

Local media reported European Union police detained Sabit Geci on Thursday following a raid on his home in Pristina.

Witnesses have linked Geci and other KLA commanders to the torture and murder of prisoners at an operations base in the Albanian border town of Kukes.

A series of joint reports last year by CIR, the BBC and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network detailed evidence of the abuses and killings following a multi-year investigation.

A wide range of sources—from survivors to former KLA soldiers—spoke of a network of secret camps scattered throughout Kosovo and Albania where civilians and POWs were held, tortured and sometimes killed.

In some cases the abuses allegedly occurred under the noses of UN officials and NATO troops, who arrived in Kosovo in June 1999.

We reviewed internal documents that showed United Nations officials knew about the allegations as early as 2002 but failed to launch a serious investigation. What’s more, officials at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague destroyed physical evidence that related to some of the allegations.

This is the first case of possible war crimes on Albanian soil and it could lift the lid on Albania’s covert support of the KLA and links to wartime abuses.

Sources close to the investigation say the government of Albania refused to cooperate with EU prosecutors despite an earlier pledge to help international investigators looking into the allegations.

There’s been no reaction from Kosovo’s current leadership, which is dominated by former KLA commanders. But here’s what Kosovo’s prime minister and former KLA political director Hashim Thaci told us last year when pressed about the Kukes allegations.

"It just didn't happen," Thaci said. "At any time, in any case, in any place, any space —this has nothing to do with the Kosovo Liberation Army."

I spoke about these developments today with Marco Werman on PRI's The World.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A dangerous nationalism

by Stavros Tzimas

In the West, had believed that the independence of Kosovo, the Albanian question in the Balkans ended finally maybe we should think again. Broadcast news lately for mobility and activities of the Albanian nationalist circles, which can not be ignored.In FYROM, where Albanians and sllavo Macedonian relations in society by balancing, made recently the resurgence of the so-called Albanian National Army (ASK) in an armed clash with Macedonian police.

Which in another case, a few days in the country's borders with Kosovo, found caches with large quantities of weapons guarded by masked men, who fled Kosovo. In Pristina one of the scenarios under the leadership of the newly established on the table in any discussion, in response to the possible secession of serbs northern Kosovo, the secession of the Presevo Valley or eastern Kosovo, as Albanians consider.

Albania has begun to incalculable nationalists thrive the fruit of the "Natural Albania". This launched from the former adviser to Foreign Minister Ilir Meta, Koco Danaj and enjoy a portion of the intellectuals, media and politics, which feeds on irredentism.

The presentation of the book in Tirana, rushed known Albanian nationalists from FYROM and Kosovo, with the first military leader of the UCK and later Prime Minister Agim Ceku. The platform of Danaj "places-probably because the superiority of the Balkans causes shudder to those who know little history, the" Natural Albania", which is otherwise identical to the "Greater Albania", which extends from Montenegro to Preveza, Tetovo and the Presevo Valley.

Simultaneously recorded in a rapidly growing anti-Hellenic climate, movements and initiatives for getting officially Chameria issue, which becomes a national issue.

In Himare dominated by the Greek element, met secretly last week the "Front for the National Union", which issued notice to the Union of Albanians in the Balkans in one state. Furthermore, these days there is no wall rock and the Albanian south that do not bear slogans such as "I love you, Tsamouria" etc., and the result is the atmosphere of nationalism and Tirana, the annulment by the Constitutional Court by the Greek-Albanian Agreement, the establishment of maritime zones.

The Albanian irredentism has not ceased to believe that historical laws are not met. If you remember what preceded the uprising in Kosovo and Macedonia, probably should be worry.


Regarding the article published in Kathimerini, notes that, on the Ionian coastal road Vlore - Himare - Sarande, have been added the Albanian police special forces.

According to sources from Himara, in this situation of political crisis in Albania, the Albanian paramilitary extremist elements equipped with suspicious car license plates, move, especially at night.

Albanian Police, is concerned by any attack that may have consequences for the indigenous people of Greek origin in Himare, provoking in this case an ethnic conflict with great consequences.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Declaration adopted at Ancona meeting

ANCONA -- The future of Southeastern Europe is in the EU, the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative Council concluded in a declaration adopted at its 12th meeting held in Italy.

The document adopted on Wednesday stressed the need to speed up the process through concrete steps such as visa liberalization for Albanian and Bosnian citizens.

One of the Initiative's main goals is creating political and institutional conditions for the successful realization of EU accession projects for countries which are already close to Europe, like Croatia, and those which still have a ways to go, like Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, it is said in the declaration.

The Council meeting was presided by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and attended by Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić and Albanian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Greek, Croatian and Slovenian foreign ministers.

The Adriatic-Ionian Initiative was founded in Ancona on May 20, 2000, and comprises the seven countries on the Adriatic and Ionian seas - Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and, by succession, Serbia.

The aim of the Initiative is to promote development, security and cooperation in the Adriatic-Ionian region and to support countries in transition in the process of EU integration.

EU police arrest Kosovo Albanian commander for war crimes

Sabit Geci, the former commander of the military police of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was arrested in Pristina, Kosovo on Thursday, charged with war crimes committed in 1999, reported the Serbian news agency Tanjug.

Geci was arrested in mid-day raid on his house in Pristina conducted by a police force belonging to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). The EU mission works in conjunction with UNMIK, the United Nations mission which officially administers the Serbian province according to UN resolution 1244. Although Kosovo declared independence in 2008, Serbia is challenging the legality of its declaration before the International Court of Justice.

"The executive branch of the EULEX police department, in accordance with an order issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor of Kosovo (KSTK), today conducted a search of a house and arrested a male suspect in connection with war crimes allegedly committed between April and June 1999," according to a brief official statement released by EULEX.

Geci was one of several high ranking Kosovo Albanian military officials named in the UNMIK report, 2003-00063, who may have direct knowledge of the kidnapping and disappearance of Serbian civilians from Kosovo and of mass graves in northern Albania. According to Radio Television Serbia, Geci who goes by the pseudonym 'Big Boss,' was one of the most influential members of the intelligence unit of the KLA, and is also allegedly connected to "politically motivated murders."

Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Measures

The crucial Greek austerity bill has been passed by parliament.
The cuts it will bring are needed to release funds in 110 billion euro (£94 billion) three-year rescue package of loans from the other 15 euro-zone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
The vote was carried out by roll call, and reached the simple majority of 151 votes in favour in the 300-member parliament to pass.
The governing Socialists have 160 seats but three of their deputies abstained.
Greeks have been outraged by the measures, which slash salaries and pensions for civil servants and raise consumer taxes.
Thousands of people gathered outside parliament to protest at the measures.
The bill passed with 172 votes in favour and 121 against. Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled the three deputies (Sakorafa, Ikonomou, Dimaras) who abstained and did not vote in favour, kicking them out of his Socialist party’s parliamentary group. The move leaves him with 157 deputies, still a comfortable majority.
Conservative opposition leader Andonis Samaras kicked out former foreign minister Dora Bakoyiannis who broke party ranks voted in favour of the bill. The main opposition party now holds just 90 seats.
Mr Papandreou and his finance minister insisted the austerity measures and the rescue package they are linked to were the only hope for the country to avoid bankruptcy.
The rescue loans are aimed at containing the debt crisis and keeping Greece’s troubles from spreading to other countries with vulnerable state finances such as Portugal and Spain. The money will come from the International Monetary Fund and the 15 other governments whose countries use the euro.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Survey: Corruption in Albania Remains High

Tirana | 06 May 2010 |
Photo: Flicker/Blipfish

The Albanian public's experience and perception of corruption remains extremely high, a study funded by the United States has found. Roughly 91.8 per cent of the respondents in the survey think that corruption among public officials is either “widespread” or “somewhat widespread”.

The study was conducted by the Institute for Development and Research Alternatives, IDRA, funded by USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

According to the poll, out of 20 institutions rated by the general public in the 2010 survey, religious leaders, the president, media, military, public school teachers and NGO leaders are perceived as the least corrupt, while custom officials, tax officials, ministers, parliamentarians and doctors, on the other hand, are perceived as the most corrupt.

The survey found that overall, the Albanian public thinks that institutions are not doing enough to fight corruption.

Of the nine institutions evaluated in the survey only the media is seen as contributing to the fight against corruption, with 62.4 points on a scale of zero to 100, while all other institutions are given less than 50 points on the scale.

Religious leaders, the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets, and the courts are seen as the least helpful in the fight against corruption, while overall trust in public institutions remains very low.

Only the military receive a passing grade as trustworthy out of twenty institutions rated by the repondents in the survey, while political parties were the least trusted institution.

Trust in the judicial system has declined from 2009, after having increased steadily from 2005.

In this year’s survey, only 35.9 per cent of respondents said that they trust the judicial system either “a lot” or to “some” degree, 10.7 percentage points lower than in 2009. The proportion of respondents who trust the judiciary “a little” or “not at all” remains high at 64.1 per cent.

The courts' treatment of citizens has also deteriorated from 2009 figures, with 38 per cent of those surveyed who dealt with the courts responded that they were treated “poorly” or “very poorly”.

This is 11.3 percentage points worse than in 2009. 79.7 per cent of respondents declare that it is difficult to get information from the courts; a slide of 10.2 points from 2009.

In 2010, those surveyed report to have been victimized on average in 1.31 out of 10 possible ways.

The corruption victimization index has not changed from 2009; however it is still lower than in 2005, when the reported direct experience with corruption was 1.7 ways out of 10.

The health sector still remains the most often cited for bribery. In 2010, 33.5 per cent of respondents said they had offered a bribe to a doctor or a nurse.


Parts of the anti-missile defence shield will be situated on Albanian territory

NATO experts are to pay an official visit to Albania in order to inspect the possibilities for installation of parts of the anti-missile defence shield on Albanian territory, Sllavo Macedonian newspaper 'Nova Makedonija' reports.

The Chief of Staff of the Albanian Armed Forces Gen Maksim Malaj has confirmed the information.

“The NATO experts will make a thorough analysis of the geo-strategic factors in our country. If they decide to install elements of the anti-missile defence shield, we will give our permission,” Gen Malaj explained.

US support for Greek measures

WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA) -- US President Barack Obama expressed his satisfaction to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday over what he termed the "ambitious" reforms and restructuring package announced by the Greek government the same day.

According to a White House press release here, Obama spoke by phone with Papandreou, with both leaders reportedly agreeing over the need for the urgent implementation of economic reforms.

Additionally, the US president -- who enjoys very high popularity ratings amongst the Greek public -- expressed satisfaction over the significant support, as he said, announced by Greece's fellow eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Skopie: Ali Ahmeti calls Albanians not to give in to provocations

Leader of the Democratic Union for Intergration (DSI) Ali Ahmeti declared that he does not support any scenarios that will lead to FYROM’s disintegration, the online edition of Skopian "Spic" daily reports.

In interview to BBC in Albanian, Ahmeti called the Albanians in FYROM not to give in to such provocations.

We are against any kind of violence and provocations and we call the Albanians not to give in to them, Ali Ahmeti remarked.

A group of protesters tried to storm the Greek parliament

Three people died in a fire set by Greek protesters in central Athens in Marfin Popular Bank during a protest march against government austerity measures, the fire brigade said. (see the video)
“We have found three dead people in the building that is on fire,” it said in a statement.
Masked youths threw petrol bombs that set a commercial building on fire, and shouted “Murderers” and “Burn the parliament,” as the public anger overflowed at the government’s plans for painful wage and pension cutbacks.
A giant plume of dark grey smoke rose over the central Stadiou Avenue, where the bank building was burning. The fire brigade was evacuating people trapped on balconies.
Police used stun grenades and tear gas in clashes with protesters Wednesday as tens of thousands of outraged Greeks took to the streets against harsh new spending cuts aimed at saving their country from bankruptcy.
Running street battles broke out in the Greek capital, where demonstrators chanting “thieves, thieves” attempted to break through a riot police cordon guarding Parliament and chased the ceremonial guards away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the building.

The demonstrations in Athens were some of the largest in recent years, with some estimates putting the crowd at about 60,000 people. Government officials put the number at above 25,000. Violence also broke out in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where another 20,000 people marched through the city centre, with youths smashing windows of stores and fast food restaurants.

The marches came amid a 24-hour nationwide general strike that grounded all flights to and from Greece, shut down ports, schools and government services and left hospitals working with emergency medical staff. The Acropolis and all other ancient sites were closed, while journalists also walked off the job, suspending television and radio news broadcasts. Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday announced draconian austerity measures, including cuts in salaries and pensions for civil servants.

Monday, May 3, 2010

K. Albanian analyst expects “new talks”

Source: FoNet, KIM radio

PRIŠTINA -- The international community is preparing for new talks “between Kosovo and Serbia”, says Veton Surroi.

Veton Surroi (FoNet, file)
Veton Surroi (FoNet, file)

The Kosovo Albanian journalist and analyst believes that the Western Balkans region still faces instability, and says it is Serbia who is “destabilizing Kosovo and the whole region with its policies”.

“It must be emphasized that greater influence and pressure from the EU and the United States is expected, in order to open a process of secret negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia on the normalization of relations,” said Surroi.

He believes that there is “no real possibility at this moment for the Western Balkans countries to join the EU before 2020, so the next ten years should be used to regulate the situation in this part of Europe”.

Surroi was also quoted as saying that he believed the “catastrophic economic situation and poverty” were the main factors behind what he described as the “fragile situation in the Western Balkans countries”.

Election row spills into Albania's streets

Tirana rallies by opposition Socialists (left) and Democratic Party, 30 Apr 10
Albania is gripped by a stand-off between the opposition Socialists (left) and Democratic Party

Thousands of opposition Socialist activists have rallied in the Albanian capital Tirana, demanding transparency in last year's general election.

The political turmoil is threatening Albania's bid to join the European Union, as the BBC's Mark Lowen reports.

Arben Ahmetaj perches on his temporary bed. With a collapsible base and thin mattress, it stands next to some 200 others, affording him little privacy. His only nourishment is bottled water; his entertainment a backgammon set.

Arben Ahmetaj
Arben Ahmetaj is among the protesters camping in central Tirana

It is not quite the usual level of comfort enjoyed by this Socialist Party MP but, he admits, these are "drastic times".

He is one of those now on hunger strike in the centre of Tirana, camped out directly beneath the office window of Albania's Prime Minister, Sali Berisha.

The Socialist-led opposition are protesting at what they say was a stolen general election last June, when the governing Democrats, led by Mr Berisha, were returned to office with a slim majority.